The world is waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Specifically, for the next video of Donald Trump saying something offensive to leak.
The Republican presidential nominee has trouble filtering himself, and has spent much of his life being recorded in front of television cameras.
So there is almost certainly more footage out there like Trump’s vulgar chat with Billy Bush from “Access Hollywood” that emerged last week. MGM is likely sitting on a goldmine of material as the now-owner of NBC’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”
Trump starred in and coproduced “The Apprentice,” which ran for six seasons before “Celebrity Apprentice” launched. One producer who worked on the show, Bill Pruit, says there are “far worse” taped moments of Trump that exist. For example, one television producer claimed Trump may have been taped saying the N-word.
But it’s been seven days since the world watched Trump proudly proclaim that as a star, he could kiss and grope women and “they let you do it.” On the internet, that’s an eternity.
So where are the “Apprentice” tapes?
Like thousands of other reporters, I’ve been trying to dig up the tapes. And after speaking to a few people in the entertainment industry who know how “The Apprentice” and the filming and editing process works, it seems a near-miracle that any lewd Trump tapes have come out at all.
The Billy Bush video was a needle in a haystack
There may be a treasure trove of salacious hot-mic Trump tapes that exist. But finding the right slice of footage is like finding a needle in a haystack.
You have to know exactly where to look to unearth it. And even then, you’d need to have the authority to call up the tapes and ask someone, probably an intern, to spend days hunting for that moment in hundreds of hours of tapes, in dozens of boxes.
Sterling Davis, an assistant editor on “The Apprentice” who spoke with Business Insider, says he and his crew digitised roughly 150 tapes per day for all six to eight weeks a season was shot. He estimates a single season of “The Apprentice” footage would fill an entire room with boxes of tapes.
The challenge in finding a relevant Trump tape, he says, is that it would take knowledge of a specific conversation or interaction to narrow down the search. Then, you’d have to log a lot of hours digging up the clip and making it usable.
You’d need to:
- Ask someone who was there, like a field producer or a contestant, for a specific memory. This person would also then have to remember roughly which day of shooting and at which time the incident took place, in order to dig up the right tape. The more specific the recollection, the fewer tapes to weed through.
- Find someone in a position of authority — likely someone at MGM or Mark Burnett, creator and coproducer of the “Apprentice” shows — and have them give the green light to dig up the tapes from storage. Both MGM and Burnett have already said they have no plans to release unaired Trump “Apprentice” footage.
- Even if you found the right executive to give the green light and you obtained the soundbite in question, you’d then have to hope the audio from the source tape was clearly audible. The best audio is recorded with a lavaliere mic worn by the talent (Trump, in this case). If the audio was captured by the on-camera mic, the quality may not be great.
- If the audio from the source tape wasn’t usable, you’d then have to sort through the audio recorded by the on-set audio person, which is recorded separately from the camera to memory cards. (More recordings to sift through!)
- You’d then have to sync the audio with picture (if necessary) and export the footage into a video that could be uploaded for web distribution.
In other words, even if Mark Burnett or MGM said, “OK! Here are all 1,000 ‘Apprentice’ tapes for season five — knock yourself out looking,” you could easily spend weeks hunting for the perfect, usable clip and then editing it. And there isn’t that much time left before the election (after which the clips become significantly less newsworthy).
“If the go ahead was given to scavenge through the show’s archives,” Davis told Business Insider, “I would not want to be the one sitting in a room staring at a screen for hours on end.”
So how did NBC find and piece together the Billy Bush moment?
It’s been reported that NBC went looking for the “Access Hollywood” tape after Bush, a former host for the show, bragged about the conversation with Trump in front of NBC executives. That conversation, which reportedly took place in August, would have given NBC what it needed to go looking: an exact comment they wanted to dig up, and a specific time frame within which to hunt.
The Washington Post intercepted the video from a source, who many believe is within NBC, who must have seen the finished product after NBC did all the heavy lifting. The source contacted Washington Post political reporter David Fahrenthold, and Fahrenthold turned around the footage five hours later.
TMZ has reported that NBC knew about the footage “long before” The Washington Post published it, but held the story because it was “too early in the election.” TMZ’s sources say NBC wanted to publish the tape just before the second presidential debate, when it would dominate the news cycle, but its plans were hindered by Hurricane Matthew.
The only chance may be an ‘Apprentice’ whistleblower
You have to assume that every network that has ever interviewed Trump has been madly searching through archives for the past week.
And it seems more likely that more videos could come from one of them, rather than “The Apprentice” team, due to less footage volume and fewer legal ramifications. One such clip emerged this week of Trump joking in a 1992 clip that he would be dating a young girl “in 10 years.” Also this week, several women came forward and accused Trump of unwanted sexual advances in published accounts.
There aren’t heavy contracts involved with one-off appearances, such as Trump’s on “Access Hollywood,” like there are for actual talent on a show. People who worked for Mark Burnett Productions say they signed contracts with a $5 million penalty if any footage gets leaked. (At least one ally to Hillary Clinton has said he would step up to pay that fee in exchange for relevant Trump videos, though).
And you can imagine if MGM or Burnett broke their contracts with Trump, and the leaked footage cost him the election, the damages for which Trump could sue could be astronomical.
If Burnett and MGM won’t dig for the clips themselves, there are still other ways “The Apprentice” outtakes could become public:
- There would need to be a whistleblower within MGM who felt motivated to leak an “Apprentice” clip. (If you feel so inclined, you can contact me here.)
- It’s possible someone who worked on “The Apprentice” saw and saved an unused clip for safekeeping, potentially for years.
Alternatively, a Trump hot-mic video could be hiding in plain sight — like from a bystander who saw Trump and wanted to sneakily film the celebrity on his or her smartphone.
The easiest way to find more footage is for someone who has already seen a shocking moment to come forward.
Until then, the world will keep waiting for that other shoe to drop.
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